Gulf War created need for better critical care

Gulf War created need for better critical careFALLS CHURCH, Va. (AFNS)

January 2016 marks the 25th anniversary of Desert Storm, and also a turning point in Air Force Medical Service’s Critical Care Transport Teams.

“We were not serving the Army as well as we could have in the Air Force,” explained Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Paul K. Carlton, a former Air Force surgeon general who had been working on the concept of CCATT since the 1980s.

As the U.S. military and its allies assembled in the Middle East in the summer and fall of 1990 Operation Desert Shield in response to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, then-Col. Carlton set up the 1,200-bed Air Force 1702nd Contingency Hospital in combination with an Army Combat Support Hospital outside of Muscat, Oman. Yet, as Desert Shield turned to Desert Storm on January 19, 1991, the hospital only took in 42 patients, and those were only from surrounding bases.

“We did not get any war wounded,” said Carlton, who offered beds to the U.S. Central Command surgeon in an effort to better utilize the facility.

To make the case for his hospital, Carlton traveled to the battlefield to offer assistance.

“I picked up a couple of air-evac missions just to let more people know we existed,” he said. “I told Army commanders to send anyone to us.” But it soon became apparent the Air Force could not meet the Army’s needs. “We could not take people with catheters or tubes, much less needing a ventilator.”

Instead of relying on the Air Force, the Army built large hospitals closer to the front.

“The Army built up just like they did in Vietnam,” Carlton said. “They had a very big footprint.”

AFMS leadership wanted smaller hospitals connecting back to the U.S., but to do that, they needed a modern transportation system. Although Carlton and other colleagues had been working on improvements to patient transportation since 1983, air evacuations were still very restrictive. The equipment needed to keep a patient alive was new and untested.

“Modern ventilators blew out lungs all the time,” Carlton explained. “We needed to work the kinks out and we needed the opportunity to work in the modern battlefield. We needed critical care in the air.”

When the war ended in late February, Carlton and other AFMS officers returned home and brought their CCATT ideas to the Air Education and Training Command.

“The war was not an aberration,” Carlton said. “We had to modernize our theater plans to be able to transport patients.”

Carlton and his colleagues trained three-person crews to work with new and improved ventilation equipment aboard airplanes.

“That was the long pole in the tent,” he explained. “When you take a critical care patient you say, ‘we can ventilate that patient,’ and you better be able to.”

With the new program up and running, the AFMS made CCATT available to the other services.

CCATT gained momentum when, in 1993, Carlton and his colleagues traveled to Mogadishu, Somalia, for an after action brief on the U.S. Army’s “Black Hawk Down” engagement, and explained CCATT to the Joint Special Operations Command surgeon. He, in turn, handed Carlton a check and said, “I want that as soon as you can make it.”

The turning point came in 1995 during the Bosnian War, when an American Soldier riding a train to Bosnia was electrocuted by an overhead wire and fell off the train. He was immediately transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, where doctors wanted him transferred to the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. When Maj. (Dr.) Bill Beninati picked up the patient for the flight to the U.S., he was still very unstable. Somewhere over Greenland, the patient went into septic shock and Beninati and his team resuscitated him. When they touched down in San Antonio, about 12 hours later, the patient was in better shape than when he left.

“That’s when the Army took notice,” Carlton said. “We had convinced them that we could do what we said.”

Soon, the Air Force surgeon general at the time, Lt. Gen. Alexander Sloan, approved the CCATT concept. Later, with the strong endorsement of Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Charles Roadman II, CCATT became a formal program.

CCATT proved invaluable in the next conflict, Operation Iraqi Freedom, where casualty evacuation became a vital necessity, as well as in Afghanistan. Carlton is proud of CCATT.

“We have developed a modern transportation system to go along with the modern battlefield for the Army, Navy and the Marines,” he said.

Today, CCATT is considered a vital component of AFMS, but it took a war to liberate Kuwait some 25 years ago for the military to realize how badly it was needed.

Desert Storm: 2nd Bomb Wing leads the air war

Desert Storm: 2nd Bomb Wing leads the air warBARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS)

In the early morning of Jan. 16, 1991, the 2nd Bomb Wing deployed seven B-52G Stratofortresses and crews to Iraq in a single, secret mission that would mark the beginning of Operation Desert Storm.

This opening salvo, launched by the 596th Bomb Squadron, paved the way for American forces to defeat Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whose troops had invaded neighboring Kuwait. Strategic Air Command called the classified 35-hour mission Operation Senior Surprise, known as “Secret Squirrel” to the operators who would fly the mission. The bombers traveled more than 14,000 nautical miles nonstop and was the longest combat mission in history at the time.

Twenty-five years later, many of the “Secret Squirrel” aircrews continue to serve the 2nd BW.

“The 2nd BW’s warrior Airmen who delivered the opening punch of the first Gulf War stand tall in our unit’s storied history,” said Col. Kristin Goodwin, the 2nd BW commander. “While technology and tactics evolve over time, the bravery, determination and skill demonstrated during that mission are timeless and continues to inspire everyone who wears our wing patch.”

Col. Trey Morriss, the 307th Bomb Wing vice commander, was a new captain when he served as a B-52G electronic warfare officer during the “Secret Squirrel” mission.

“The ‘Secret Squirrel’ mission was used to blind Iraq by eliminating certain power and communication nodes throughout the country. This severely hampered their response in the initial phase of the war,” Morriss said. “We proved to U.S. citizens, our allies, coalition partners, and even to our enemies that we will do what we say we’re going to do. In doing so, we solidified the B-52 in the realm of long-range strike capability.”

During Desert Storm, the 2nd BW employed a new weapon against Iraq: the AGM-86C, Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missile. This marked the first time GPS had ever been used to guide a missile toward a target. On Jan. 17, 1991, the B-52 crews launched 35 CALCMs, rendering Saddam’s forces and striking key points of communication infrastructure.

“The B-52 provides a great first-strike capability in any conventional war,” Morriss said. “It gives us the ability to degrade the enemy with the first attack and press in with other capabilities. We also proved to the world that we were on the threshold of a new type of modern warfare with GPS-guided weapons. The results speak for themselves.”

One “Secret Squirrel” copilot, Russell Mathers, faced unpredictable risks when flying to the Middle East, but maintained confidence in his training. Those risks included potential enemy action, landing into friendly territory that may not have been prepared to accommodate U.S. military aircraft or any number of system failures within the aircraft.

“The risks were the unknown,” Mathers said. “We didn’t know if anyone was going to take a shot at us.”

After Desert Storm, SAC learned valuable lessons about long-range combat missions, according to Mathers.

“What we learned as a bomber community is that the bomber is still a huge viable weapons system. We also learned how difficult it is physiologically, to fly these missions and prepare the human body to fly 30 or 40 hour missions,” said Mathers.

Once “Secret Squirrel” kicked off Desert Storm operations, the B-52 continued playing a critical role throughout the campaign. Nearly 70 B-52G crews flew 1,741 missions totaling 15,269 combat hours during which 27,000 tons of munitions were dropped.

Jim Bowles, an Air Force Global Strike Command program analyst, served as a B-52 instructor pilot and aircraft commander during Desert Storm. Bowles said he was fortunate to fly with a copilot, radar navigator electronic warfare officer, and gunner, all of whom were instructors in their respective duties.

“We knew our aircraft, and we knew our training. While there was some apprehension about going into combat and the potential for not coming home, there was also a confidence because we knew we could do our mission. When I look back on Desert Storm, it feels like yesterday. It’s a memory deep within myself and my family. It’s a defining moment that shaped me for the rest of my Air Force career.”

For Bowles, mission success during Desert Storm isn’t only a victory for “Secret Squirrel” aircrews, but for the Airmen and their families who provided critical support at home while combat continued overseas.

“When those bomber crews go off to do their mission, they need the support of every Airman behind them making sure they can get their job done,” he said. “Without the support of the Airmen and their families, it’s a lot more difficult when conducting your mission downrange.”

The Ghost over the highway: Reservists renew bond with Desert Storm AC-130A gunship

The Ghost over the highway: Reservists renew bond with Desert Storm AC-130A gunshipWASHINGTON (AFNS)

More than 20 years after two Air Force Reserve Command leaders flew into combat together over the “Highway of Death” in Iraq, they were reunited with the aircraft that took them on the mission.

Maj. Gen. Richard S. “Beef” Haddad and Col. Randal L. Bright boarded the AC-130A gunship No. 55-0014 again June 12, 2014, at the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, where the aircraft is on display for the public to see. Robins is also home of Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command.

On Feb. 26, 1991, Haddad, then a captain, and Bright, a first lieutenant both members of the 711th Special Operations Squadron at Duke Field, Florida were assigned to a mission over a road connecting Kuwait City to Baghdad. In August of the previous year, Iraqi soldiers had invaded Kuwait, sparking a chain of events that soon led to the U.S. sending military members to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield/Storm. The 711th SOS was part of these operations. The road was crowded with Iraqi military vehicles exiting Kuwait and going back to Iraq.

Two other reservists, Maj. Michael N. Wilson and Maj. Clay McCutchan, piloted the lead aircraft as the 711th SOS raced to stop Iraqi forces fleeing from Kuwait to Iraq. Wilson and McCutchan determined that they did not have enough fuel to successfully execute the mission. As a result, they radioed Haddad and implored him to “hurry up” and “get up here.”

While en route, Haddad noticed that his aircraft’s autopilot feature was not working. Without the autopilot, Haddad and his co-pilot, Bright, faced a greater challenge than they had anticipated because they relied upon the autopilot’s altitude-hold function to keep the aircraft at a fixed altitude while they banked and fired the gunship’s weapons.

To compensate, Haddad had to manually control the ailerons to turn the aircraft while also firing the guns. Bright, facing an equally challenging task, crouched down in his seat in order to work the aircraft’s throttles and yoke simultaneously to maintain a fixed altitude. Working in tandem to complete the mission, Haddad, Bright and the rest of the reservists aboard the aircraft remained on station, firing their weapons with little resistance a situation that quickly changed.

As they began to leave the “killbox,” Haddad and company discovered that their efforts had not gone unnoticed. As they headed south, Master Sgt. Don Dew, the illuminator operator, excitedly yelled “missile launch” over the radio. In response, Haddad increased power and put the aircraft in a dive while Capt. Jose Davidson, the aircraft’s navigator, released flares to counter the missile. Unaware of the navigator’s actions, Haddad and Bright, hearing the noise and seeing the light produced by the flare, believed their aircraft had been hit.

“My hands were gripping the throttles, thinking we were going down,” Haddad said.

After seeing more flashes, Haddad and Bright realized that they were in no danger.

The significance of the mission they participated in that night was not immediately apparent to Haddad and his crew. However, the stretch of road that they had fired on quickly became known as the “Highway of Death” due to the enormity of the destruction caused that night.

While the exact number of casualties remains unknown, the attack destroyed an estimated 1,400 to 2,000 vehicles. Haddad, Bright and the crew destroyed at least 20 enemy trucks and four armored personnel carriers. They received the Air Medal for their actions that night.

More than two decades after Operation Desert Storm, Haddad, who now serves as vice commander of AFRC, and Bright, chief of the Plans Division in the Directorate of Plans and Programs at Headquarters AFRC, reflected on that eventful night in early 1991.

“It was an exciting time for me and the other members of my crew,” Haddad said. “That experience helped me go to war in the future as we went to OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom). It helped in terms of realizing the risks and what it was like to be a crew member going into that kind of environment.”

Like Haddad, Bright maintained that the night had a lasting impact on him and his career because it “was always something I could hang my hat on. As a youngster in the Air Force, I had seen combat.”

(This article was first published in the August 2014 edition of Citizen Airman)

SecAF speaks at CSIS for Smart Women, Smart Power series

SecAF speaks at CSIS for Smart Women, Smart Power seriesWASHINGTON (AFNS)

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies as part of its Smart Women, Smart Power series Jan. 14.

SWSP launched in December 2014 and convenes top-level women leaders to discuss critical and timely issues in their respective fields, reflect on their professional experiences, and share ideas and insights.

With the 25th anniversary of the start of Desert Storm on Jan. 16, James recalled lessons she learned from that particular operation.

“I remember being in awe of the first time the fantastic combination of stealth and precision weaponry (was used), all of which was enabled by space,” James said. “That was the first time that the investments that had been made, in some cases a decade or two decades, actually came together on the battlefield and for the first time the world saw what the United States military could do in this new era.”

Among many things, James was asked about setting up no-fly zones in Iraq and Syria as well as the limits of the air campaign in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

“I would first tell you all, it’s very much a whole of government approach,” James said. “There are more than 60 countries involved with the coalition doing different aspects of the work and, of course, it’s a joint situation.

“But make no mistake; it has been very heavily the United States Air Force that has covered this air campaign,” she continued. “This is everything from striking the targets to the very important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to the assets in space that enable everything that goes on. The strategy is we are going to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

With technology being key in maintaining air superiority, the Air Force is focused on the Defense Department’s third offset strategy which is finding the next key technology that will help ensure the U.S. maintains the advantage over adversaries.

“Think of super computers that can crunch data and make sense out of different databases, I think that will be part of it,” James said. “I think another piece is likely to be, I’ll call it, human machine collaborations. Human interfaces with technology in different, new and creative ways.”

When asked about China and Russia’s hand in space, James said the Air Force is shifting people and resources toward space.

“We are going to start treating space the way we treat everything else in the U.S. military,” James continued. “That is, we need to get our heads around the fact that one day there could be a conflict on Earth that, in some way, bleeds into space. We are going to start experimentations, the various types of practice things that we do in other domains in the military to make sure that we can defend appropriately our constellation in space.”

At the conclusion of the event, James answered questions from the audience that ranged from maternity and paternity leave, women in combat roles, and the use of remotely piloted aircraft.

Buddy Wing 16-2 takes flight over Osan skies

Buddy Wing 16-2 takes flight over Osan skiesOSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS)

The 51st Fighter Wing hosted Buddy Wing 16-2 at Osan Air Base Feb. 22-25, showcasing Airmen from the 25th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

South Korean air force pilots and maintainers from the 237th FS at Wonju Air Base, traveled to Osan AB in a continued effort to support the alliance.

“The Buddy Wing exercise creates an opportunity to share knowledge and discuss and improve processes that can be tactically developed by both (South Korean air force) KA-1 and U.S. Air Force A-10 (Thunderbolt II) pilots,” said Maj. Hwang, Jung-hwan, a 237th FS pilot. “This Buddy Wing will grant an opportunity for us to prepare and be ready to cope with unexpected situations we have never experienced in person by performing practical training where our (South Korean air force) may lack.”

Members participating in Buddy Wing 16-2 trained to build relationships and broaden their knowledge of working in a joint environment with continued training operations aimed at deterring enemy aggression.

U.S. Air Force A-10s from the 25th FS integrated with South Korean air force KA-1 Woongbi fighter aircraft from the 237th FS to perform close air support missions.

“Buddy Wing is conducted quarterly to integrate and conduct joint, combined missions,” said 1st Lt. Samantha Latch, a 25th FS A-10 pilot. “As we fly and train together, not only are we getting to know them, but we’re increasing our capability to work together.

After 62 years, the South Korean and U.S. alliance continues to be one of the longest standing and successful alliances in modern history. Exercises such as Buddy Wing, along with other combined operations and training events, add to the continued success.

“The exercise promotes mutual understanding and motivation to maintain a strong alliance between (South Korea) and U.S.,” Hwang said.

Buddy Wing 16-2 is the second in a series of joint training, combat exercises conducted in 2016 across the peninsula.

Operation Desert Storm: 25 years later, AMC doing more with less

Operation Desert Storm: 25 years later, AMC doing more with lessSCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS)

Iraqi forces attacked Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990, setting into motion a massive military response from a coalition of nations to protect Saudi Arabia from invasion with Operation Desert Shield. After Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein refused to withdraw from Kuwait, Desert Shield gave way to Operation Desert Storm Jan. 17, 1991, and soon concluded with a ceasefire at the end of February.

Twenty-five years later, Mobility Air Forces are continuing to fuel the fight and provide airlift with most of the same airframes the Air Force used during Desert Storm.

Jan. 17 marks the 25th anniversary of the total force performing the most rapid airlift movement in history. Nearly 472,800 people and approximately 465,000 tons of cargo were deployed to the Persian Gulf in eight months.

The buildup

Airlift and air refueling enabled the rapid arrival of the first U.S. forces in Desert Shield. Two F-15 Eagle squadrons from Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, arrived in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 7, 1990.

Military Airlift Command launched its first airlift mission that day as well, a C-141 mission from Charleston AFB, South Carolina, carrying airlift control elements.

Within the next 24 hours, ALCEs were in place in Saudi Arabia to manage the airlift flow. The ALCE personnel and cargo were carried on 37 C-141s, 10 C-5 Galaxies and 10 C-130 Hercules missions. U.S. Transportation Command completed the largest unit deployment ever via air with 412 strategic airlift aircraft. From Aug. 8-26, the Strategic Airlift Command airlifted the 82nd Airborne Division to Saudi Arabia while simultaneously moving the 101st Airborne Division from Aug. 17-25.

In a little more than two months, the XVIII Airborne Corps, consisting of an airborne division, an air-assault division, two heavy divisions, an armored cavalry regiment, and the requisite array of combat support and combat service support assets, deployed. The arriving inventory included more than 120,000 troops, 700 tanks, 1,400 armored fighting vehicles, and 600 artillery pieces.

Not long into the operation, a lack of spare parts impeded the buildup to Desert Storm. To help cope with priority deliveries, TRANSCOM established a special code 9AU and an airlift system to support. On Oct. 30, 1990, Mobility Air Forces began a special airlift operation called Desert Express to provide daily delivery of spare parts considered absolutely crucial to the war effort.

This was a new concept of airlift operations, which involved C-141 deliveries from Charleston AFB to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. With a stop for refueling, the journey took about 17 hours one way, according to a document titled “So Many, So Much, So Far, So Fast: United States Transportation Command and Strategic Deployment for Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.”

On Dec. 23, the airlift sustainment backlog peaked 10,300 tons. On Feb. 13, USTRANSCOM began flying a second C-141 flight per day to tackle the backlog until it was discontinued May 20, 1991. By the end of the war, Desert Express flew nearly 135 missions.

Operation Desert Storm

Directed by USTRANSCOM, the Military Airlift Command managed the Desert Shield/Desert Storm strategic airlift. MAC’s active-duty force joined with MAC-gained aircraft and crews from the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard to make up a total strategic airlift force.

The “surge” of total force and the first activation of the Civilian Reserve Airlift Fleet was essential to the Desert Shield/Desert Storm success. There were 12,894 strategic airlift missions during both operations.

Commercial airline augmentation was also crucial to the airlift effort. The Civil Reserve Air Fleet was activated for the first time during Desert Shield/Desert Storm and flew 3,309 missions.

Altogether, commercial aircraft delivered 321,005 passengers and 145,225 tons of cargo, including 64 percent of passenger movements, according to the USTRANSCOM historical document.

On the military airlift side, the C-130 supported intra-theater needs and is credited with 1,193 tactical airlift missions. More than 145 C-130 aircraft deployed in support of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. The C-130s flew 46,500 sorties and moved more than 209,000 people and 300,000 tons of supplies within the theater.

The C-141 was called the “workhorse” of Desert Shield/Desert Storm, according to the USTRANSCOM document. It flew 8,536 strategic airlift missions, followed by the C-5 with 3,770; the KC-10 with 379 and the C-9 with 209. The C-141 and C-5 accounted for 361,147 tons, or 66 percent of the cargo airlifted in support of the Gulf War.

Gen. Hansford T. Johnson, the MAC commander at the time, compared the first few weeks of deployment effort to airlifting a small city.

“We moved, in essence, a Midwestern town the size of Lafayette, Indiana, or Jefferson City, Missouri,” Johnson was quoted as saying in the MAC history book. “In addition, we’ve also moved the equivalent of all their cars, trucks, foodstuffs, stocks, household goods and water supply.”

The Strategic Airlift Command led refueling missions during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

“Once the deployment order was given on Aug. 7, 1990, tankers played an integral role in getting forces and aircraft to the deployed theater of operations,” retired Air Force Gen. Kenneth Keller, the former SAC director of operations, said during a 2009 AMC Tanker Living Legends Speaker Series.

Seven B-52Gs from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, dropped the first bombs to initiate Operation Desert Storm Jan. 17, 1991. The bombers launched 35 conventional air launch cruise missiles, flew 14,000 miles for more than 35 hours without landing.

These were the first combat sorties launched for the liberation of Kuwait in support of Operation Desert Storm, and it marked the longest combat sortie flight totaling 14,000 miles in 35 hours and 24 minutes. This mission required multiple four inflight refuels outbound and four returning, according to the Air Force Global Strike Command.

“Without the phenomenal tanker support we had for the war, we could not have accomplished what we did,” retired Lt. Gen. Patrick Caruana said in the Tanker Living Legends Speaker Series. Caruana was the U.S. Central Air Forces’ air campaign planner and commander during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

Tankers flew 4,967 sorties and off-loaded more than 28.2 million gallons of fuel to 14,588 receivers during the 132 days of Desert Shield buildup, according to the Air Force History Office document “Seventy-Five Years of Inflight Refueling.” The 43 days of Desert Storm included 15,434 sorties and dispensed 110.2 million gallons of fuel to U.S. and allied aircraft.

“Desert Shield and Desert Storm demonstrated the U.S. Air Force’s capability to respond to crisis and contingency situations in times of intense demand with limited resources,” said Gen. Carlton D. Everhart II, the AMC commander. “Today, Headquarters AMC planners evaluate these operations to determine more efficient methods of providing rapid global mobility and enhance AMC’s agility.”

Evolution of Air Mobility Command

Following Desert Storm, SAC and MAC merged to form Air Mobility Command. One constant through the years is the demand for rapid global mobility through aeromedical evacuation, airlift and aerial refueling. Today, AMC is meeting high demands with a smaller force and older fleet.

In the past 25 years, AMC retired the C-141B/C and the C-9A; made improvements to current airframes, C-5, KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 and C-17 Globemaster III; and adopted a new airframe, the KC-46 Pegasus.

Mobility Airmen are off-loading more fuel now in support of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant than what was offloaded when U.S. forces were on the ground in Iraq, operating with only 27 percent of the KC-135 fleet size originally assigned to AMC in 1992.

During 2010, at the height of Operation Enduring Freedom, Mobility Air Forces moved 856,208 short tons of cargo the most in OEF history, compared to 543,548 short tons moved in the Gulf War. That same year, AMC had 429 aircraft assigned, less than half of the number of aircraft assigned at its inception in 1992.

“For the past 25 years since Desert Storm and Desert Shield, the (United States) has been in a state of continuous conflict,” said Terry Johnson, the Air Mobility Command’s air, space and information operations deputy director on Scott AFB, Illinois. “As we come out of Southwest Asia and shift from a constant state of continuous conflict, (Air Mobility Command’s) focus needs to return to maintaining readiness especially after a period of fiscal austerity.”

Today, there’s one Mobility Air Forces departure every 2.8 minutes, every day, 365 days per year.

“The Air Force puts the ‘rapid’ in global mobility,” Gen. Everhart said. “AMC is still required to support an increasingly demanding operations tempo while preserving the capability to surge if called upon. Without our total force and Civil Reserve Air Fleet partners, surge operations would be almost impossible.”

Acquisitions enterprise: Experimentation and agility

Acquisitions enterprise: Experimentation and agilityWASHINGTON (AFNS)

A key leader in Air Force acquisitions testified Jan.7 on Capitol Hill before the House Armed Services Committee on acquisition reform, explaining how the Air Force is improving its acquisitions processes through agility and experimentation.

Rich Lombardi, the acting assistant secretary of Air Force acquisition, discussed how the acquisitions enterprise needs to focus on three areas to include strategic planning, prototyping and experimentation, science and technology, as well as modular and open systems architecture.

“Over the past two years the Air Force has made great strides to improve the strategic planning process as evidenced by the release of the visionary 30-year strategy,” Lombardi said. “We’re also reinvigorating the use of prototype and experimentation for the purpose of providing warfighters with the opportunity to explore novel operational concepts … reduce risk and lead times to develop and field advanced weapon systems.”

Lombardi said the Air Force’s science and technology program plays an integral role in technology development, often fielding temporary operational prototypes to meet urgent warfighter needs. However, they are not necessarily the final solution, but a stepping stone to a long-term solution that addresses aspects of producibility, reliability and sustainability.

According to Lombardi, the Air Force developed a system in response to urgent warfighter needs received from the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan. The Air Force developed and deployed a sensor payload on a tactical remotely piloted air vehicle. This capability has been very successful in supporting numerous activities in theater and is credited with improvised explosive device detection, weapons cache identification, and enemies being captured or killed.

The use of modular and open systems architectures allows the Air Force to be more agile and adaptable which is why there is an emphasis on fielding systems more rapidly and building resilient systems that are inherently resistant to predictive failure, according to the written testimony.

“The Air Force has more programs than ever implementing modular and open system architecture approaches,” Lombardi said. “These methods can help shorten developmental timelines. Such systems are designed to later upgrade which can allow us to better manage our risk and schedule.”

Lombardi also addressed business-related challenges by explaining Open Systems Acquisition, a new acquisition approach prototype.

“It will enable aggressive competition toward rapid prototyping and utilize other transaction authority to create a consortium specifically focused on reaching non-traditional defense companies,” he said.

This model was tested last year as a pilot initiative for the Air Force Distributed Common Ground System, the Air Force’s primary intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection, processing, exploitation, and analysis and dissemination system.

Two teams of developers were awarded contracts for their products that were offered at less than 80 percent of the original government cost estimate.

“I firmly believe the Air Force acquisition enterprise has and is building an even stronger engineering and program management culture that values strategic agility as a core capability,” Lombardi said. “We look to capitalize on the complex and dynamic environment of today and tomorrow to ensure our Airmen have what they need to meet any challenge or any threat, anywhere in the world.”